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Dec. 31--The long-closed French Quarter Inn was sold Tuesday morning to California-based NCE Realty & Capital Group.

The deep-pocketed firm paid $1.9 million in cash, said one of the sellers, Memphis attorney Donald W. Pemberton.

He said it is his "understanding" that the buyers intend to renovate the 105-room Midtown hotel and keep it as a boutique hotel. But Pemberton referred questions about any plans to the buyers.

A spokesman for NCE Realty said Wednesday the purchasers are not ready to answer questions about the property's future. One principal resides in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Miss.

The New Year's Eve transaction may stamp an exclamation point onto a transformative year for the Overton Square entertainment district.

The closed 29-year-old hotel property is the only remaining eyesore in the district. It stands at the northeast corner of Madison and Cooper. That is directly across from Overton Square, which has just undergone about a $40 million redevelopment.

Square owner Loeb Properties spent nearly $20 million to spruce up the worn restaurant, shop and business spaces, the City of Memphis spent about $15 million building a 400-space garage and flood-retention structure, and Hattiloo Theater is spending about $5 million building a new theater in the Square.

Loeb Properties has repaired, reconfigured and repainted the old Overton Square buildings, and commissioned about 10 works of public art on or among the buildings.

All those investments are radiating beyond Overton Square in all directions, with the French Quarter Inn sale being the latest example.

Property owner Taylor Caruthers has just renovated his multi-use building immediately west of Overton Square.

Restaurateur Taylor Berger and partners renovated the decades-vacant Chicago Pizza Factory, also just west of the Square, opening Chiwawa restaurant there.

And Five Guys recently opened a hamburger restaurant on Union immediately south of the Square.

Prominent chef Kelly English just opened a new restaurant, The Second Line, immediately east of the Square.

The sale comes about two months after a previous deal fell through.

Texas developer ASC Management gave up its earnest money in late October to walk away from a tentative agreement to buy the dormant hotel.

But by late November, the ownership group of Pemberton, Dr. Garnett Murphy, Ron Kirkpatrick, Carroll Brunthaver and Dr. Rex Amonette had four other offers, including the one from NCE Realty, Pemberton said Wednesday.

"People finally got aware of what was going on in the Square," Pemberton said of the renewed interest in buying the old hotel. "They figured it was a good deal."

Pemberton and his partners had bought the closed hotel in 2008 thinking they would sell it quickly, but the Great Recession made it more difficult.

The group had almost sold the 29-year-old hotel property in 2012 to prospective buyers who planned to convert what had been a boutique hotel into a midrange brand Comfort Suites. But Midtown residents voiced opposition, saying they wanted a more upscale hotel, and the would-be buyers walked away.

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